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Can rappers be frugal?

Making good financial decisions is hard — if it was easy, everyone would do it. I’m a big believer in finding motivation and wisdom in the art I choose to consume, including music. So I’m going to start highlighting music I think has something smart or interesting to say about money.

Today’s Bank Notes highlights a song featuring rapper and R&B singer Phonte, formerly of Little Brother. It might seem a little ridiculous to take money advice from a rapper — rappers generally spend a lot of time boasting about the money they’ve blown on cars and gold chains that cost as much as your house.

But a lot of rappers are also shrewd entrepreneurs with rags-to-riches stories that would make Horatio Alger cry into his cornflakes. As a fairly obsessive hip-hop fan, every once in a while I’ll come across a rap verse that expresses a truth about personal finance in a way that really hits home.

Here’s Phonte in the song  “On the Marquee,” a collaboration he did with all-star producer Statik Selektah a few years ago.

“It’s a shame when people are seen as struggling/ Just cause you don’t n—- waste your money out in public/ Please; I don’t do this s— for the perks/ I do this rap s— for the work/ And even when them ASCAP checks is berserk/ I’m in the bank tellin’ my money ‘keep quiet’ like it’s talkin’ in church”

Phonte is on to something here: In a society as materialistic as ours, being frugal can look downright weird, but that doesn’t mean we should let that stop us. If I had a dollar for every time someone gave me a weird look for riding my bike to work down here in image-conscious South Florida, I probably wouldn’t have to bother riding a bike anymore.

Striving for a higher degree of financial independence by cutting costs and accumulating cash-flow producing assets is inherently nonconformist. We live in a culture where not leveraging yourself to the max to buy two new cars, a newly-built house in the ‘burbs and luxury-branded everything is downright strange, and people sometimes assume the worst if you choose not to play along.

In the end, though, that might actually work to your advantage. If people confuse your penny-pinching with financial hardship, they’re probably less likely to come to you for a loan.

What do you think? Do you ever get weird looks or negative comments from your peers for not maxing out your consumption? What songs do you think have smart things to say about money?

If you want to listen to the whole song, it’s below (some NSFW language):

(Photo: The Foreign Exchange Music)